Apricot stuffed chicken

2 whole boneless chicken breast halves, with skin
1/2 cup dry stuffing mix
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 Tbsp. melted butter
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 lb. fresh apricots, halved (about 4)
1/2 cup apricot jam
1 Tbsp. cider vinegar

Place chicken skin side down and flatten slightly with a mallet. Combine stuffing mix, onion, butter, and 1/4 tsp. ginger; place in a strip along center of each breast half and top with apricot halves. Wrap chicken around filling; tie with string every two inches. Barbecue 15 minutes on a rack about 5-1/2 inches above medium-hot coals, turning once or twice. Mix apricot jam, vinegar, and remaining 1/4 tsp. ginger; brush over chicken rolls. Grill another 5-10 minutes, until done.

Adapted from California Apricots

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Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.


native to: China or Armenia
in season here: June to early July

Apricots, Prunus armenaica, are closely related to plums (more distantly, they join plums, peaches, and apples as relatives of the rose). They may have originally come from India or China and were certainly present in ancient Greece and Rome, but the general scientific consensus these days is that they came from Armenia. They were brought to Virginia in 1720, but didn’t do all that well until they arrived in California in 1792, where the climate was much more suitable. Here in Washington State, of course, we think of them as being from Yakima and Wenatchee, and may even associate them with Cotlets. It’s easy to tell if an apricot is reasonably local and delicious or has been picked green and imported hundreds or thousand of miles: the better an apricot smells, the more flavor it has. The essential oil from apricot pits is sold as bitter almond oil (just like almond extract is actually made from peach pits).

Apricots are one of summer’s earliest fruits and provide plenty of beta-carotene, fiber, vitamin C, copper, and potassium. Their flavonoids and other polyphenols have been linked to heart health, and their carotenoids and xanthophylls are thought to protect vision. They are also a good source of catechins, an anti-inflammatory most commonly associated with green tea. They support bone health, with all the necessary minerals needed to grow bones and prevent osteoporosis. They’ve been used to treat digestive complaints, earaches, fever, skin problems, respiratory problems, cancer, and anemia (with what success, my superficial research doesn’t mention). Apricot oil is used on strained muscles and wounds.

Read more:
label-style nutrition information for raw apricots
label-style nutrition information for dried apricots
World’s Healthiest Foods
Live Strong

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Versión en español: this post is also available in Spanish.
Esperanta traduko: this post is also available in Esperanto, because Dana is a language geek.

Newsletters: 5 Oct., 2011

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 5 Oct., 2011. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In the belly
I’ve written about CSA shares before, but this seems like a good time to remind you of all the great vendors we have who are joining the CSA parade. Mostly I’ve spoken of the advantages to the farmers and other producers, who love to have those advance sales and a little predictable income, and also just enjoy having a personal relationship with their best customers. This time I’m going to say a little about the advantages to the customer, beyond the discount. You, too, benefit from a personal relationship with your farmer (or baker, or soap-maker, or…), with special frills such as first-of-the-season produce, limited-run specialties, farm news, and deals on, or first shot at, additional products. A traditional produce CSA can also help you eat better, because you’ve got this huge box of beautiful vegetables and there’s another one coming! You get to try new things with the help and advice of your personal farmer, often including preparation instructions and recipes in your CSA newsletter. Not sure you want to try new things? Most farmers will let you trade what you won’t use for something you will.

In the kitchen
How about recipes from CSA newsletters to go with the CSA information? Here are some late-season selections from our two “anchor” farms. No, it’s not at all that I’m rushed and lazy, they just fit in so well… OK, it’s because I’m surrounded by half-packed moving boxes and don’t know where I put the inspiration.

Creamy Potato and Parsnip Gratin
8 potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
8 parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, halved
1 teaspoon thyme
salt and pepper to taste
2 c whipping cream or yogurt
Generously butter a 13×9-inch baking dish and rub with garlic. Arrange a single layer of potatoes in dish. Sprinkle lightly with a little of the thyme, salt and pepper. Add a layer of parsnips. Sprinkle with seasonings. Repeat layers with remaining vegetables. Pour in enough cream to come three-quarters up side of dish. Place on baking sheet and bake, covered, in 375 degree F oven for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 30 minutes longer or until top is brown and crusty and potatoes are cooked through.
Variations: Butternut squash, kohlrabi, or celeriac may be added to the vegetables. Maple syrup may be added to the cream.
From: Left Foot Organics CSA News, October 16, 2008

Sweet and Sour Peppers
1/4 cup catsup
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup water
1 tablespoon corn starch dissolved in 2 tbsp water
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups very thinly sliced onions
2 large red bell peppers, cut into thin strips
2 large green bell peppers, cut into thin strips
1 can baby corn, drained
1 1/2 cups cashews
Combine catsup, soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, water, and cornstarch to make a sauce. Heat oil in wok or large skillet and stir-fry garlic and onions for 3-4 minutes. Add peppers; add 2-3 tablespoons water if necessary to prevent scorching. When peppers and onions begin to soften, add corn and cashews. Stir fry 1 minute, then add sauce mixture and let simmer another minute.
From: Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, as quoted in The Kirsop Farm news, October 14, 2009

Red Cabbage with Apricots
2 1/2 lbs. red cabbage, sliced thin
1 cup chopped dried apricots
1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup dry red wine
Salt to taste
Combine cabbage and apricots in a slow cooker. Mix honey and juice; drizzle over cabbage mixture. Add wine; cover slow cooker and cook on LOW until cabbage is very tender (5 1/2 to 6 1/2 hours). Season to taste with salt.
From: Left Foot Organics CSA News, October 22, 2009

Fennel with Parmesan Cheese
2 pounds fennel bulbs, washed and trimmed
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons butter, in small pieces
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Blanch or steam fennel 8-15 minutes, until tender but firm. Cool and quarter, leaving a thin layer of the core to hold the bulb together. Arrange cut side up in a buttered 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Cover with cheese and butter and season with salt and pepper. Bake 20-25 minutes until cheese is lightly browned.
From: Victory Garden Cookbook, as quoted in The Kirsop Farm news, October 13, 2010

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Newsletters: 28 July, 2010

Excerpt from the Market Newsletter originally published on 28 July, 2010. View the full newsletter for all the photos and links.

In keeping with this pause for breath, the raffle prize this week is eight yoga classes. I’m pretty excited about that, because yoga is the only “sport” I’ve ever found enjoyable (I was always the fat kid out in left field; which was fine with me, except they wouldn’t let me sit down). Now, we all know how healthy yoga is, right? Makes you look 25 until you hit 90, and you live to be 150*? But what people don’t always know is that it’s not about doing pretzel imitations. It’s about doing what you can TODAY. If that means you only touch your knees while the student on the next mat touches her toes — with her elbows — you still win, because you walked away without limping. And with time, you find yourself looking at a pretzel imitation and thinking, “wait, that’s not so hard…”. I encourage you to check out OlyYoga’s website (the “Practicing Yoga” section has a lot of good information), contact them with your questions, or just go and see. If you have money issues they’ll work with you — they have senior and low-income rates, summer specials, multi-class and unlimited cards, all kinds of options — so you can’t use that excuse.

Cooking, and reading about cooking
I went looking for something Indian to go with the yoga, but this wasn’t really what I had in mind. Don’t you just love serendipity?

Ginger Cardamom Oeufs à la Niege
3 large eggs, 2 separated
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
2 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup roasted shelled pistachios, chopped
Line bottom of a small 4-sided sheet pan with parchment paper. Separate 2 eggs; add whole egg to yolks. Beat whites with a pinch of salt until they hold soft peaks. Add 1/2 cup sugar in a slow stream, beating at medium-high speed until whites hold stiff, glossy peaks. Meanwhile, bring milk, ginger, and cardamom to a bare simmer in a wide 4-quart heavy pot over medium heat. Drop 4 large dollops of beaten whites into milk and poach at a bare simmer, turning once, 4 minutes. Transfer meringues with a slotted spoon to lined pan (reserve milk). Whisk remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, cornstarch, and salt into yolk mixture. Add hot milk in a slow stream, whisking until incorporated, then return to pot. Cook, stirring often, until thickened and an instant-read thermometer registers 170°F. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a clean bowl. Stir in vanilla. Quick-chill custard by setting bowl in an ice bath and stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes. Ladle into 4 bowls and put a meringue in each. Sprinkle with nuts.

Here’s one for apricot season. I’ve always been of the opinion that ice cream is not junk food, it’s full of calcium and happiness. Vante has the quick-and-easy kind, but here’s something for when you want to get fancy.

Apricot chocolate chip ice cream
3 eggs, separated
3/4 cup caster sugar, divided into two equal parts
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
6 apricots
3/4 cup choc chips
Split apricots and remove stones. Simmer gently until tender in just enough water to cover. Drain and sieve. Set aside to cool. Beat the egg yolks with half the sugar until thick and very pale in colour. Set aside. Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the other half of the sugar and beat to form a meringue. Gently fold into egg yolk mixture. Whip cream until very stiff (be careful not to overbeat). Gently fold cream into egg mixture. Add apricot puree and choc chips and fold through until thoroughly mixed. Pour into a suitable freezing container and freeze until solid (overnight is best). Makes ca. 2 quarts.
Unfortunately I copied this several years ago without noting the source.

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*Results not typical.